Saturday, November 13, 2010

International School of Latvia trip to Zālīte

Story of Lezlie Polis
4th Grade Teacher
International School of Latvia

Our trip to Zalites was a very special event for the kids. In the International School of Latvia, the students learn with a focus on "transdisciplinary themes." One of our 4th grade themes is "How We Share the Planet". Each year we were learning about different charity organizations around the world and how they help those in need. We were raising money and sending it abroad to countries who had suffered from natural disasters. However, last year as I sat and thought about our unit, I realized there is a lot of need around our own country! So, I changed the unit of study to focus on how we could share and give back to those in need in our own community. I found the Palidzesim website and they hooked me up with Zalites, and the rest is history, as they say! My goal is to keep a strong bond with Zalites so that ISL can continue to offer support even after I leave the school next year, so I have kept in touch with Inese from Zalites to help build a relationship between our school and theirs! That's how we became involved with Zalites.

As for our visit, it was wonderful! The first time we visited the students was last winter. The students got together and did a small singing performance for all of the Zalites students. It was intimidating for them because it was secondary and primary school Zalites students. The kids felt nervous but were happy to participate.

This time when we visited, it was just my class (11 students) and the primary school of Zalites. They were already SO excited to visit because they knew a bit more about the students at Zalites. When Palidzesim had first asked for help with school supplies, I thought there wouldn't be enough time to raise money to purchase them, but my students were very eager to try! They came up with the idea for a bake sale and worked hard to advertise and bake the treats. It was our most successful bake sale and we raised 115 LVL! I then took the students shopping for supplies that they got to pick out for Zalites kids. When I told them of Inese's idea for a picnic, they LOVED it and were excited all week!

When we got to the school, my students saw how the Zalites students live at school during the week and what little they have. Some of the students were a bit surprised that kids would have to live away from their parents. The first feeling was sadness for Zalites kids. They commented to me about how lucky they thought they were for where they get to live and how they get to go to school. However, by the end of the day, I think the ISL students had a completely different point of view. They realized that the kids at Zalites are very happy there. They saw how sweet the kids are to each other and how much fun they have in a day. I think it changed their attitude from pity to just helping a good friend. This was the point of getting our students together. ;)

Here's how our day went:

When we arrived, both sets of students were apprehensive at first, but like all kids, they began to play and soon everyone was having a really great time! They roasted sausages together, played football, and organized games. When the boys from Zalites started gathering firewood, I explained to my students that this was part of the deal at Zalites, that students do jobs around the school to keep it running- and they instantly wanted to help fetch wood! They thought that doing jobs at school sounded much more fun than sitting and doing mathematics!

There were a few girls from my school who speak Latvian and Russian, and they made new friends at Zalites right away! I noticed them walking around together and telling each other that they would soon come back for a visit! The afternoon was filled with laughter and fun, and on the bus ride back, the students told each other all about their day and shared the special experiences. The students then decided that I should invite Zalites students to OUR school for a change, so they could come and see where we learn. They all loved the Zalites playground and how open the space was, but thought the kids might like a chance to play with our equipment and that the ISL students could show them around our school so they knew what we were about as well. I agreed and think it's a nice idea. We usually do a singing performance here at our school in the winter, so we will invite them here for that.

My goal is to keep the relationship alive among our schools. Not because of "charity" to Zalites, but to have our students understand that giving doesn't always come in the form of money! It also comes in the form of friendship and time- which is what a lot of us tend to forget! Zalites is a very special place with a lot of heart, and we should be so lucky if our students could learn to appreciate the little things that life has to offer as much as the kids at Zalites do!

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